Christie Blatchford: For the Liberals, the Norman file is yet another case closed

So here we all are, more than a week after the criminal charge against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman was stayed.

The former second-in-command of the Canadian Forces is not yet back at work.

The all-party defence committee met Thursday upon a motion from Opposition members that the committee convene hearings and call witnesses into the government’s conduct and investigation of Norman.

Naturally, the Liberal majority on the committee refused, just as the Liberal majority on the justice committee refused to reconvene to hear more evidence in the SNC-Lavalin matter.

In the House of Commons Thursday, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau overseas and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan not in evidence, that left respectively the remarkably ineffectual National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier and Sajjan’s parliamentary secretary, Serge Cormier, to “answer” queries directed to them.

“Answer” is in quotes because it appears no one in this government ever remotely even pretends to actually provide a responsive answer.

Liberal MPs Sherry Romanado, Sven Spengemann, Yves Robillard and Mark Gerretsen wait for the start of the Standing Committee on National Defence, Sherry on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 16, 2019. Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Similarly, Sajjan and Trudeau were also tragically unavailable to be in the House Tuesday when MPs unanimously passed a motion apologizing to Norman.

Both have declined opportunities since to make their own apologies, odd especially for the PM, who after all has made saying sorry for the sins and policies of others and other governments, some in power before he was born, part of his own darling brand.

Sajjan, whom you may wrongly remember as the Lion of Medusa (in the spring of 2017, he told a crowd in Delhi that he was the “architect” of Canada’s largest battle in Afghanistan, called Op Medusa, and later apologized for overstating his role) has given every sign of adhering to the enduring Liberal tradition of throwing the least valuable/quickly available person under the bus.

This week, Sajjan said that the decision to suspend Norman, more than a year before he was criminally charged, was made by Chief of Defence Staff Jon Vance.

Oh he certainly supported it, Sajjan said, but it was Vance’s decision alone.

Now, let us cast our tiny minds back to January of 2017.

On Monday, Jan. 9 that year, Vance was briefed on the RCMP investigation into Norman’s alleged conduct.

Vance then handed the Vice-Admiral what’s called “a notice of intent,” alerting Norman that he might — operative word, might — be relieving him of military duty.

Then he went to brief Gerald Butts, at the time Trudeau’s principal secretary (he resigned early on in the SNC-Lavalin imbroglio), the PM’s then and current chief of staff Katie Telford and others.

That meeting, Vance testified in court during a motion in Norman’s case in January, started around 4 p.m. that day.

Then, Vance said, he got a phone call from the PM, who confirmed he’d been filled in.

Then Vance said he told Sajjan and his own chief of staff.

He took not one single note of any of these discussions.

And then he went out for dinner with Butts and Telford.

Four days later, on Friday, Jan. 13, Norman was formally suspended; it took effect Jan. 16.

I am no Ottawa sophisticate, but my hunch is that if the Chief of Defence Staff often has meals with Butts and Telford, that’s pretty interesting.

And if he didn’t, and this was a one-off, then it’s even more interesting: Why, on this sad and unusual occasion, would Vance break bread with two intensely political animals in the PM’s office?

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance and Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/Files

Vance testified, with a straight face, that “We did not discuss that (the Norman suspension), I’m quite sure.”

Well, what the heck did they discuss?

(That wasn’t asked at the time because this wasn’t the trial itself, merely the defence third-party records motion.)

Those who are wiser in the ways of the national capital than I am struggle to believe that the CDS — any CDS, not just Vance — would make a decision to suspend Norman all on his own.

More likely, they suggest, is that he first ran it by either the prime minister or Sajjan.

Thus, when the PM et al say that the prosecution wasn’t political, they cannot be taken seriously.

The decisions of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, first to charge Norman and then to stay the charge, were independent and made without the overt sort of PMO/Privy Council Office interference that occurred in SNC-Lavalin.

But this prosecution was deeply political.

It was the Privy Council Office, which was the complainant, in that the PCO first investigated the leak that so embarrassed the new government in November of 2015.

This prosecution was deeply political

They found that there were six separate leaks of information around the very same meeting Norman was accused of leaking about and that 42 people knew the meeting was happening, and 73 who knew the outcome.

The PCO, headed of course by clerk Michael Wernick, then called in the RCMP, and in March of last year, more than a year after Norman had been suspended, they charged him with a single count of breach of trust.

Throughout, the PCO was the gatekeeper of records and documents, and it was the PCO that resisted disclosing to the defence (and prosecutors) information that was critical to Norman’s defence and full prosecutorial understanding of the circumstances.

The RCMP, which has of course defended its investigation, failed for two years to ask witnesses it interviewed early on for the notes they mentioned they had, prompting one of them to come forward to the defence, so worried was she that they were missing out on key context.

The RCMP also failed to interview a single member of the former Stephen Harper government, though fully 11 of the dozen times Norman was alleged to have leaked information happened under the Conservatives’ watch.

Former defence minister Jason Kenney, his predecessor Peter MacKay (at the time justice minister) and former veterans affairs minister Erin O’Toole have publicly confirmed that this is so — they were interviewed only by defence lawyers and gave information that may have played a role in convincing prosecutors they had no reasonable shot at conviction.

At the time of Norman’s suspension, his departure was described as mysterious. No one knew what the precise allegations were. Thus the gravest reputational damage to Norman: To whom had he been leaking and what?

And as my Postmedia colleague David Pugliese reported last year, the government In November of 2017 refused Norman’s request for financial assistance, available under a special program for public servants with legal difficulties, because the government already had deemed him guilty.

As the Queen said in Alice in Wonderland, “Sentence first — verdict later.”

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Источник: Nationalpost.com

Источник: Corruptioner.life

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